Labour: fight the cuts!

Submitted by Matthew on 21 September, 2011 - 10:09

Katy Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, spoke to Solidarity in the run-up to Labour Party conference which opens in Liverpool on 25 September.

The Labour Party has had 70,000 new members join since May 2010, but it normally takes individuals quite a long time to get through the structures and gain influence, especially in today’s Labour Party.

I know a number of people who joined the Labour Party last year in a surge of enthusiasm, but it’s quite difficult for new members to become delegates to conference. In fact, I suspect most new members haven’t really got that involved.

The danger then is that the surge of enthusiasm dissipates. The Labour Party hasn’t always been very good in welcoming new members. Often they find bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of political discussion.

It varies tremendously, of course. If you’re lucky and you meet some good people first off, then it works out well. If you’re not lucky, you have an alienating experience and maybe just continue as a paper member.

The Labour Party has got to give leadership to the people angry at what the Government is doing. That is decisive.

We have to make people realise that the cuts are not necessary, and there is an alternative.

We still have the New Labour faction arguing for matching the Tory spending cuts and for more privatisation. We have other people arguing other things. The outcome of that debate is going to be decisive.

In the summer, when Ed Miliband distanced himself from the 30 June strike, the responses were interesting. Many people in the Labour Party realise that the attacks which the Government is making are fundamental, and we need to be united in fighting them.

The Labour Party should be pleased that union members want to take action against the cuts. We should make the case for decent pensions and decent services, and make sure that we don’t allow the ripping up of community assets which have taken generations to build up.

The way “Refounding Labour” has been run is appalling. Some people were genuinely enthusiastic about “Refounding Labour”, but the process is very important. If it’s a process where people aren’t listened to, then there’s a lot of anger about that.

Delegates and Labour Party members have got to make their voices heard, and not be bounced into things without discussion. A lot more discussion is needed, for example, about the proposal to abolish Local Government Committees. The rule changes proposed in Scotland are quite dramatic.

I would hope that the detailed constitutional changes are put out for further debate, rather than being forced through at short notice.

The most important thing about the rule changes is not the detail of them, but how they’re being forced through, or may be forced through.

Some of the proposed rule changes may be positive, but they won’t be what determines the political outcome.

That, in the end, is down to those who hold leadership positions.

• More on Labour conference: bit.ly/restitch. Scottish rule changes: bit.ly/scotlp

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